Monday, September 28, 2009

Review - The Scarlet Pimpernel (musical)

Lynette and I have loved the music for The Scarlet Pimpernel since we first heard the concept album many years ago. The movie has been a long time favorite and I've finally started reading the books and enjoying them. We've sadly missed seeing the show the few times it's played nearby in the past…so we made certain we weren't going to miss it this time.

Before the play, we stopped at Flemings Steakhouse for dinner thanks to a gift card I'd recently received. We got a great peppercorn filet mignon with a great spinach salad, wonderful potatoes and beans and followed by a very tasty banana creme brulee. After dinner, we raced south to Hale Centre Theatre. Our tickets were in Will-Call, so we were a little worried when we were suddenly stopped dead by traffic. It turns out The Killers were performing at the E Center across the street.

We got our tickets and got seated just in time. The overture began and we settled into our seats for a wonderful show. For those unfamiliar with the concept of The Scarlet Pimpernel, the story is set during the French Revolution and follows the action of an English aristocrat turned hero. Acting as the elusive Pimpernel, this man and his league of followers rescue many French aristocrats and dignitaries from the gaping mouth of the guillotine. French military/police leader Chauvelin is given the task of capturing the Pimpernel and spends the show attempting to do just that. It's a fun adventure with plenty of great action, humor and romance.

The story was brought to the musical stage about 10 years ago and met with success. As mentioned above, I've really enjoyed the soundtrack over the years. There are a few songs that feel a little too busy at times and they proved a little problematic to follow precisely in the live version (the worst offender for me was Falcon in the Dive which I really enjoy, but has a few times where the lines are so rushed they can be harder to follow). Overall, the music and the story is a ton of fun.

Which leads to this particular production of this great play. If you've never been to a production at Hale Centre, you're really missing out. For a "community theatre" style environment and price, these guys truly give you professional style theatre at a budget price. Their sets and costumes are always amazing. The seating is comfortable and well planned out. And the show direction is always wonderful.

My only complaint with shows at Hale is that they are a Theatre in the Round which can be problematic at times. They generally do a superb job of making sure the action revolves enough that you never feel that you're missing key moments while the actors have their backs to you. Indeed, during our showing, there was only one moment where the staging frustrated me (the scene in which Armand is about to escape and has a letter "thrust into his hand"….because of the angle, I couldn't see more than Armand's arm). It didn't affect the overall production and honestly, they way their stage and direction works, I often forgot that it was "in the round."

The casting was excellent. Each of the key actors did a fabulous job portraying their characters. I especially felt the tension and emotion between Marguerite and Chauvelin, even more so than that between Marguerite and Percy (which is understandable considering their estrangement through the middle of the show). Percy's foppery was well portrayed and believable, though I felt like even when he was a fop Percy still felt a little too smooth. Granted, that's a difficult line to balance and I preferred that they err on the side of smooth rather than fool since it would have been horrible had the fool bled into the hero.

Hale's stage is amazing and makes for a lot of interesting choreography and pacing throughout the show. The stage isn't large but they take advantage of every bit of space…including the vertical space. Their usage of above/below for the prison versus the street/guillotine was wonderful and allowed for stark contrasts. Even subtle changes to the stage floor made for interesting balance between the characters. I loved the way they split the stage during the singing of The Riddle…they placed Marguerite on a raised circle in the center and then had Percy and Chauvelin each on a raised wedge extending out of the circle and rotating around the center. It was great presentation.

I would whole-heartedly recommend that all of you race out and buy tickets to this show…but alas, the entire run was sold out quite early….and Saturday night was actually the last showing. But this has been a very popular production and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see it play again. If it comes anywhere near you, I'd recommend you jump at the chance to see it. And if you happen to be able to see it at HCT, all the better.

As an added bonus, the video below includes some snippets from the show as well as some behind-the-scenes on the production. Enjoy.

5 stars

No comments: